Mindfulness is the practice of coming to the present moment, with full acceptance and non judgement.
“You can do almost anything in your life on automatic pilot … You could end up thinking, eating, reading, getting married and dying in a haze of unawareness. Some people do. What happens is that you live on autopilot and miss noticing what’s happening before your very eyes, paying no attention to the present moment.“
The more we practice coming the the present moment, the more we live in the now and then we can contribute towards creating the future that we want. A point to note here: We always say “practice” because we’re only practicing, in the beginning it feels very contrary to our learnt state and it can often provoke feelings of panic that if you come to the present moment then you’ll be so blissed out that you won’t actually accomplish any tasks, goals, ambitions or challenges! That’s a misconception. An important part of coming to the present moment is to see what you need to do for the future, do it and then let go of it. You will find that you will become more focused, more effective and you’ll have headspace to start or try other things. We also say practice because what we cultivate in mindfulness is what we want to apply to our lives. So whether or not you are interested in mindfulness, the following post can perhaps help you to think a little differently about judgement and acceptance.
Well this is another really important part of the practice of mindfulness. We judge everything to be good or bad in life, we attach drama to everything and we have the appropriate responses. When we judge something as bad, then we go into our learnt responses – we might get angry, sad, stressed, irritated, etc then we react out of that. However, what if we let go of the judgement? What if we said “I can’t do anything about this situation but I can control my response to it. I can get caught up in this being a “bad” thing or I can instead not put any labels on it simply saying “it is as it is” and then I’m free to see things in a different light and have more control about how to respond to it.” Meaning that we will save ourselves time and energy and headspace!
For e.g. Road rage. A man shared with me a story about what mindfulness did for him. He was travelling to work one day and a guy cut him off. It came from nowhere and he was pretty shocked at the angry state the man was in who was now shaking his fist at him. He realised in that moment, that he would normally react and retaliate and that the experience would then stay with him for the rest of the day, affecting every meeting, every conversation, every decision would be tinged with this experience. He observed the situation as it was and decided to make another choice, a choice that was better for him and that wouldn’t affect his decisions, encounters and his day – he chose not to react. To breathe, and let it go. He did not react and he did not retaliate and in that moment he realised that mindfulness had give him that choice. And that is all we can do. We cannot control life, we can only control our reaction to it.
There is a beautiful ancient Sufi story: There lived a king in some Middle Eastern land who was continuously torn between happiness and despondency. The slightest thing would cause him great upset or provoke an intense reaction, and his happiness would quickly turn into disappointment and despair.
A time came when the king finally got tired of himself and of life, and he began to seek a way out. He sent for a wise man who lived in his kingdom and who was reputed to be enlightened. When the wise man came, the king said to him, “I want to be like you. Can you give me something that will bring balance, serenity, and wisdom into my life? I will pay any price you ask.”The wise man said, “I may be able to help you. But the price is so great that your entire kingdom would not be sufficient payment for it. Therefore it will be a gift to you if you will honor it.”
The king gave his assurances, and the wise man left. A few weeks later, he returned and handed the king an ornate box carved in jade. The king opened the box and found a simple gold ring inside. Some letters were inscribed on the ring. The inscription read: This, too, will pass. “What is the meaning of this?”asked the king. The wise man said, “Wear this ring always. Whatever happens, before you call it good or bad, touch this ring and read the inscription. That way, you will always be at peace.
“As we practice mindfulness you are invited to temporarily suspend judgement. It means briefly standing aside and watching the world as it unfolds, while allowing it to be just as it is for a moment. It means approaching a problem or a situation without preconceptions so that you are no longer compelled to draw only one preconceived conclusion. In this way you are saved from closing down your creative options.” Mark Williams
When we no longer judge, we are then free to accept.
I could talk about acceptance for hours, and it’s not in the scope of this newsletter except to say …well I’ll let Michael J Fox say it! 🙂
How often do you use the word “should”? Count it for the next day. You’ll probably be surprised by the amount of times you repeat it, either to yourself or aloud. “Should” is a judgement word and it’s completely useless. I don’t know about you, but when I tell myself I should do something….well I’m not very likely to do it. It’s like the rebellious teenager in me stomps her feet and yells “NO!”
However, when I replace SHOULD with COULD ….well that changes things. It brings in choice. For example: notice how these 2 statements feel to you:
You should go to the gym today
You could go to the gym today
Which one feels better? Which statement is likely to get you to the gym?
1) Bring acceptance & non judgement “it is as it is” into your life. Perhaps the next time you’re in a traffic jam or a queue in a shop, instead of getting upset or irritation, you can see it as it is and choose a different response. One that’s better for you.
2) Replace the word should with could.